The future of beef farming in Minnesota is in good hands thanks to some forward-thinking beef producers.
Some years ago, attendees at the Minnesota Beef Expo — now in its 19th year — talked about ways to draw more youth into careers in beef production. From those discussions, the Minnesota Youth Beef Experience Program was created. Through MYBEP, each year during the expo several heifer calves donated by beef producers are awarded to FFA, 4-H and Junior Breed Association youth ages 12-16 who have applied to the program. Each recipient is responsible for raising and breeding the awarded heifer, maintaining thorough animal care records and providing quarterly progress reports to the original owner and the Minnesota Beef Expo.
Breeders who donate heifers also serve as mentors to the MYBEP youth.
Since its inception in 2004, MYBEP has awarded more than 130 heifers to future beef producers.
“The young people involved with MYBEP are on a journey that will make them effective cattlepeople and stronger communicators,” says Claudia Goodrich, MYBEP coordinator. “They are our hope for a better tomorrow. Each one is passionate about our industry and they love cattle.”
MYBEP’s youngest recipient last year was Macy Rohner, 14, from Pennock. She received a Charolais heifer donated by the Minnesota/Wisconsin Charolais Association and is mentored by an association member.
Rohner has been active in 4-H since age 5 and in FFA since 7th grade. She has participated in various projects, including fitting and showing beef cattle. Her older sister earned a MYBEP heifer years ago, so she wanted to apply for one, too.
“I want to build my own cattle herd so when I’m older and buy my own place, I will have a small herd to start my own beef operation,” she says.
Since receiving her Charolais named Twizzler, Rohner has been traveling and showing her at beef shows across the state.
“I’m learning more about the showring and how to set her up,” Rohner says. She likes working with Twizzler compared to other livestock she has shown in the ring.
“She’s a lot easier to work with and she has a better attitude,” Rohner says.
YOUNG PRODUCER: Macy Rohner, 14, Pennock, Minn., received her MYBEP Charolais heifer, Twizzler, last October. She planned to breed Twizzler to an easy-calving bull and hopes for a spring 2020 calf.
The fact that Rohner is an active teenage is a miracle in itself. At age 9, she was in critical condition after a horse at full run stepped on her chest, crushing a lung and stopping her heart. She was revived and airlifted to a Minneapolis hospital where doctors initially thought she had brain damage and would not walk again.
The young girl proved them wrong as she healed, determined to show the 4-H heifer she had been training that summer for the fair. She underwent numerous surgeries and worked at getting stronger.
In her MYBEP application, Rohner shared how frustrated she was that she would not be able to show her heifer. Instead, her sister showed the heifer for her.
“The day we left the hospital, I just wanted to get out of there and go see my heifer [at the fair]. We stopped on the way home and my mom pushed me [in my wheelchair] in the barn to see my Mosley,” wrote. “I dove out of my wheelchair on top of her and just hugged and held her.”
This happened on a Tuesday night. By Saturday of that week, Rohner was walking with assistance from her mom, Monica.
“I believe it was my willpower to be with my animals — my true loves — again,” Rohner wrote.
This fall, Rohner will be a freshman at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg High School. Her future plans include growing her Charolais herd and either working with dogs or becoming a beef nutritionist.
Wyatt Lawrence, 19, Princeton, has come full-circle with MYBEP as a recipient and donor/mentor. In 2015, he was awarded a Hereford heifer donated by Whispering Pine Farms and mentored by Jared Flowers. And last year, his family donated a Hereford heifer calf from another cow that was awarded to a young beef producer near Duluth.
“MYBEP has truly been a great experience for me and helped start my own herd,” Lawrence says. “As a donor, we’re helping the future beef industry. I always wanted to be able to give back and give another young person the opportunity.”
Lawrence, a University of Minnesota sophomore this fall majoring in agri-business and minoring in animal science, is a third-generation beef producer. His grandfather, Doug, started raising beef in 1957, and his parents, Bryan and Marytina, manage the 75-cow beef operation today.
His own herd has grown up to eight animals, including a heifer won from the American South Devon Association. His MYBEP heifer, CeCe, has calved three times, producing two bulls and a heifer — the latter which was born in May. Lawrence also has flushed CeCe for embryos for sale and future use.
Thanks to MYBEP, Lawrence has developed more confidence in his leadership and communication skills and more depth in his cattle showing skills. He was awarded the 2016 MYBEP Achievement Award, serves as president of the Minnesota Junior Hereford Breeders Association and was elected this summer to the National Junior Hereford Association board of directors. Since he started showing cattle at age 9, Lawrence has exhibited at dozens of county and state fairs and at regional and national shows.
His long-term goals?
“I want to return to the farm and manage close to 200 cows and have annual bull sales,” Lawrence says. “Selling our beef genetics is my big dream and goal.”
MYBEP is hosted during the Minnesota Beef Expo, scheduled for Oct. 17-20 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. MYBEP heifers will be announced and awarded the afternoon of Oct. 19.
For more information on the expo and MYBEP, visit mnbeefexpo.com
Impact of MYBEP
Program coordinator Claudie Goodrich sees the impact of the Minnesota Youth Beef Experience Program every time she sees and visits with past recipients.
“I have watched young people go from shy and insecure to bold and knowledgeable,” Goodrich says. “I have watched a number of kids who were growing up in urban surroundings find joy in raising a beautiful heifer with the guidance of a true cattle family.”
Goodrich shared the following comments she has received from cattle donors and recipients over the years:
• Tyler Doyle, 2012 recipient, received a heifer from the Minnesota's Cattlemen's Association with Dusty Martin as a mentor. “My mentor has basically taught me everything I currently know about the cattle business,” Doyle says. “Without this generous donation, I do not know how or when I would have gotten my start in the cattle industry.”
• Jim and Jerry Hanson, 2014 donors of a heifer to Shainne Teas, explain the value of the MYBEP mentorship: "As a family, we have always enjoyed helping young individuals get involved in the beef industry. In this experience, though, it has forced us to truly stay connected and watch both the heifer and Shianne grow together. It is such a great program. We have had six individuals from our county receive heifers in the past and just the connections and friendships that are made, both on the receiving and the donating side, are endless!"
• Crystal Lewis (Witt), 2005 recipient of a Limousin heifer donated by Lyon River Front Farm, explains the financial benefit from her MYBEP heifer: "I sold my last calf out of Radiance at the Iowa Beef Expo and did well. He now stands at LimiGene as Mr. Unbelievable."
•Micayla Christopher, 2010 recipient of a Simmental heifer donated by Lynn and Barb Aggen and family, says that "the biggest change in my life from winning my heifer, Felicity, was getting to meet and communicate with a lot of people from the beef industry. It opened many doors for me and showed me all that the beef industry has to offer."
Goodrich says MYBEP is conducting a survey of all 134 recipients and their donors/mentors to gather input to enhance the program’s effectiveness at keeping youth connected to the ag world.